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Quakertown joins others in support of cyber school bills


Quakertown Community School District is backing proposed changes to the cyber charter funding system.

In a 7-1 symbolic vote, the school board joined other districts in supporting two state bills, which require parents to pay tuition costs if they choose not to enroll their child in their home district’s cyber program.

Superintendent Bill Harner told the meeting that the district spends $1.92 million annually, or nearly 2 percent of its budget, to have students residing in the district educated at cyber schools. Breaking the figure down, he said cyber schools are charging the district $14,500 per regular ed student, or seven times what it would cost Quakertown to have the students in its own cyber program. He added that a quarter of these students are reclassified special ed, which costs the district an additional $18,000 per student.

Board member Ron Jackson hoped the net loss would become a net gain. “If it’s going to save us nearly $2 million, I’m all for it.”

Jackson’s colleague, Jonathan Kern, the sole vote against the resolution, defended the cyber costs, saying the schools had “a lot more to do” to support pupils. Kern, an advocate of school choice, questioned why the district didn’t want competition.

“I think competition makes us stronger and sharper and better.” “If a child wants to get a special, more diverse education, we’re now depriving them of that,” he added.

Putting a different spin on the superintendent’s numbers, Kern said it actually cost the district $21,000 to educate a student, so it was saving about $6,000 to send a pupil to a cyber school.

Stephanie Zajkowski of Richland Township stated she too was all for competition, but she said the cyber funding formula had been broken for several years. “It’s costing the state a million dollars a day, and that was back in 2012. So imagine what the state could have done with $365 million.” She noted that even though cyber schools were nonprofits, they make a lot of money.

The district had considered eliminating its cyber program in 2017 as part of its plan to reduce its $4.7 million structural deficit. About 300 students are currently enrolled in the program.